New law brings in tougher sentences for assaults on emergency staff
PUBLISHED: 10:27 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:35 13 September 2018
New rules introducing tougher sentences for anyone convicted of assaulting an emergency service worker are to become law today.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill will receive Royal Assent later today, Thursday, September 13, and come into force in November.
The new law comes just months after Home Office figures showed a 32pc rise in assaults on police officers in Norfolk.
There were 515 attacks recorded between April 2017 and March 2018, up from 390 assaults in 2016-17, equating to a further 125 officers assaulted.
PC Dan Taylor, who has been with Norfolk Constabulary for nine years, told this newspaper in April that he had been assaulted 11 times in the last year alone.
He said on one occasion he was offered just £1 in compensation from the courts, after the partner of a drink driver he was arresting near HMP Norwich in September 2017 assaulted him and a colleague.
PC Taylor described the offer of £1 as “a kick in the teeth”.
Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation, welcomed the new law.
He said: “Being assaulted, whether you are a police officer, firefighter, prison officer or paramedic, must never be seen as part of the job and the sentences should be harsher.”
The bill will introduce a maximum prison term of one year for people found guilty of common assault against an emergency worker, doubling the current maximum sentence of six months.
Police officers, NHS staff, and firefighters are all covered under the new legislation and anyone assisting an emergency worker will also be protected.
The new law makes it an aggravating factor to assault or sexually assault any member of the emergency services.
It will also ensure judges have to consider stronger sentences for offences including grievous bodily harm and sexual assault, if the victim is an emergency worker.
This will include prison officers and search and rescue services.
The Labour MP Chris Bryant, who brought the bill to Parliament described attacks on emergency service workers as a “national scandal”.
Mr Symonds said: “This has come after an incredible amount of hard work and lobbying by all of the local branches of the Federation around the country and the national Federation.”
He added: “Officer’s families are simply fed up of their loved ones returning home with injuries having been assaulted at work.
“I’ve spoken to officers who have had to tell their children a different account of how they came about their injuries as they don’t want them to worry or get upset.
“Officers are fed up of turning up for duty in an ever demanding job, working hard to protect the community only to be punched, kicked, scratched, head-butted and spat at.
“We want protection in the form of a deterrent from the courts when they sentence offenders.
“Our officers are not robots - they are human beings who wear a uniform with pride to protect the vulnerable, keep people safe and in doing so put their own safety and mental wellbeing at risk.
“They are also someone’s sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.”
Nationally, more than 26,000 assaults against police officers were committed in England and Wales during 2017-18.
Have you, or someone you know, been affected by an assault on a member of the emergency services?